The Defriending Trend: How it Could Help and Hurt Facebook Advertising

 
on March 24 2012 11:28 AM

One major question that has been circling around social media since its inception is: At what point is it all too much? The sentiment of that question still rings true, however, it is clear that this point hasn't necessarily been reached, and the social media bubble hasn't popped and maybe won't pop. Social media has been embraced with open arms and utilized to great degrees. As cited before in my writing, 86% of online US adults and 79% of European adults are engaged in social media, according to Forrester. Instead removing themselves completely from social media, people will simply refine the way they use the technology. This kind of behavior has already been seen and will continue to be across platforms. Facebook, the world's largest social networking platform is now experiencing a trend of one such minimizing behavior and there are cases for it either helping or hurting Facebook advertising.

A closer look at the defriending trend presents a clearer picture. In 2009, the number of people that defriended others on Facebook was 56%, that number rose to 63% in 2011. More specifically, 158 million people were unfriended in 2009 and over 500 in 2011. Many analysts feel this is a natural transition for the platform especially considering more and more users are older than 35 and are more concerned with reigning in their networks to those they know well and trust. Now, with Facebook's IPO there has been greater scrutiny on the company's advertising-focused business model. The company is positioning targeted advertising as the main way that they can leverage the immense database of personal information, interests, likes, and networks for financial game.  The defriending trend, however, has brought even greater analysis to the viability of this advertising which is important for marketers and SEO companies looking to maximize their online efforts.

How Defriending Hurts FacebookOne school of thought is that when users defriend others, their overall network of friends on the platform decreases. The thinking is with the fewer friends, it is harder for Facebook to determine the world of the user and essentially has less information than them. Thus, the company does not know as much regarding the user and their experience which can mean ads could be less targeted forcing Facebook to charge less for them.  This could equate pose a threat to advertising potential on the platform and challenge the company's profitability.

How Defriending Helps FacebookThe converse of the above argument could also be true. If users reduce their overall network by deleting any friends that they never communicated with, they are essentially reducing down to those they are closer with. If follows that the network would be stronger just not as large and the influence over each other would be that much stronger. As such, an argument could be made that these reduced networks, post defriending, may in fact produce a more accurate representation of the user's world. This would allow ads to be more accurately targeted, and priced more as a result.

In sum, Facebook hopes the trend has the latter impact on their advertising efforts. Business marketers and the SEO companies that assist them in their organic search and paid advertising will track this defriending trend and analyze its impact on how effective the advertisements are. The importance of organic SEO could get a boost from these developments if marketers stray from Facebook. At the same time, those investing will surely be taking notice and Facebook's value will mirror what these investors act on.

Reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com and @ryanwbudd if you have any questions on what this trend means for your business or how internet marketing efforts in general can help you drive more targeted traffic. Additionally, you can connect with WebiMax directly through the contact page, with an opportunity to pose your question or comment.     

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